COVID-19 & Breastfeeding
COVID-19 & Breastfeeding
If you have COVID-19, you can still breastfeed your baby. There is no evidence of mothers passing on COVID-19 to babies through breastfeeding or through breastmilk. A breastfeeding māmā who has a COVID infection needs to take hygiene precautions. This includes hand washing and mask-wearing while breastfeeding and caring for pēpi.
Key points about COVID-19 and breastfeeding
There is no evidence of mothers passing on COVID-19 to babies through breastfeeding or through breastmilk.
- breastfeeding protects babies from getting sick and helps protect them throughout their infancy and childhood
- breastfeeding is very effective against infectious diseases - it strengthens babies' infection-fighting system (immune system)
- breastfeeding directly transfers antibodies from māmā to pēpi
- if you have COVID-19, you can still breastfeed your pēpi
- there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be passed to babies through breastfeeding and breastmilk
- take precautions if you are breastfeeding and you have COVID-19 (confirmed or suspected)
- mother to baby skin-to-skin care after birth, early initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, and mother-baby rooming-in are still recommended practices
COVID-19 immunisation and breastfeeding
If you're breastfeeding and haven't had the COVID-19 vaccine already, you can make a booking now. There are no safety concerns about getting the COVID-19 vaccine if you're breastfeeding.
Find out more about COVID-19 immunisation and breastfeeding
How does breastfeeding protect my pēpi from infectious diseases?
Breastfeeding is very effective at protecting against infectious diseases. It strengthens your baby's infection-fighting system (immune system).
Breastfeeding protects your pēpi from getting sick. It also helps protect them right through infancy and childhood. Breastfeeding is very effective in protecting against infectious diseases. It strengthens your baby's infection-fighting system (immune system). Breastfeeding directly transfers antibodies from you to your pēpi.
Can I breastfeed my pēpi if I have COVID-19?
Yes, you can breastfeed if you have confirmed or suspected COVID-19. Continuing to breastfeed benefits the health of you and your pēpi.
What precautions do I take if I'm breastfeeding and have or might have COVID-19?
Take precautions if you are breastfeeding and you have confirmed or suspected COVID-19, or any symptoms of COVID-19.
Make sure you take precautions if you are breastfeeding or practising skin-to-skin contact with your pēpi, and you have either:
- confirmed or suspected COVID-19
- any symptoms of COVID-19
- wash hands before and after contact with pēpi (including feeding)
- wear a surgical mask during breastfeeds
- avoid coughing or sneezing on pēpi
- avoid kissing and touching your baby's face, and your own face
- clean and disinfect any surfaces you touch
If you become unwell and you are breastfeeding your pēpi, keep breastfeeding. It's important not to interrupt breastfeeding. Your pēpi will already have had exposure to COVID-19 and will benefit from continued breastfeeding.
If you are too unwell to breastfeed, express your milk and give it to your pēpi by bottle (taking the same precautions).
What if I am breastfeeding and in self-isolation?
Exclusive breastfeeding gives the best protection for babies, so if your pēpi is less than 6 months old, aim for exclusive breastfeeding. This means only breastfeeding and not feeding any other sorts of food until 6 months. Even if your pēpi is older than 6 months, remaining with you and continuing your breastfeeding relationship is good for both of you.
Other countries (such as Italy and the UK) report that babies usually stay well if they stay with a mother who has mild COVID-19 symptoms and who takes precautions around breastfeeding.
If you are in self-isolation, keep your pēpi with you so you can keep breastfeeding.
Wash your hands before touching your pēpi, and avoid touching their face and coughing or sneezing on them.
Find out more about how to care for a newborn if you have COVID-19
How do I get help with breastfeeding my baby if I need it?
If you are still receiving care from your midwife, they will support you with feeding and can answer your questions. If your midwifery care has finished and you have some breastfeeding concerns or need support or information, there are options available.
How can I get a breastfeeding assessment?
If you are worried about how your baby is feeding, ask to have a breastfeeding assessment.
Your midwife can observe a breastfeed and if necessary, can refer you to a lactation consultant for further assessment. A lactation consultant is a professionally trained breastfeeding specialist.
The referral process will vary across the country, and your midwife will know who to refer you to in your area. You can also find available breastfeeding support in your region on the Women's Health Action website.
You can also talk to a PlunketLine nurse on 0800 933 922. Calls are free and PlunketLine is available 24 hour a day, 7 days a week. They'll do an assessment and can book you an online appointment with one of Plunket's lactation consultants.
These breastfeeding consultations are free and available for all breastfeeding women - even if Plunket isn't your WellChild Tamariki Ora provider.
You can also check SmartStart to find breastfeeding support services in your area.
See the NZ College of Midwives' FAQs on breastfeeding and infant feeding during COVID-19, March 2022 (PDF. 205KB).
Can I start breastfeeding again if I have recently stopped?
Yes, in some circumstances, women can start breastfeeding again, either fully or partially - this is called relactation. It depends on things such as when you stopped breastfeeding your baby, the reason why you stopped breastfeeding, your baby's age, and your baby's willingness to return to your breast.
The easiest way to bring back a milk supply is through your baby suckling at your breast, although expressing breastmilk will likely also be necessary. The more often your baby suckles at your breast, the more likely your breasts will make milk. You will need to make sure you:
- offer your breast very frequently
- stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet to ensure you stay well and better able to manage the increased breastfeeding activity
- Rest as much as possible
Talk to your midwife or Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse, or call PlunketLine on 0800 933 922 for more information on re-establishing your breastmilk supply if this is something you would like to do.
You can also find more information about relactation at the Australian Breastfeeding Association website and the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (UK) website.
The content on this page is supported by Te Kāreti o ngā Kaiwhakawhānau ki Aotearoa | The New Zealand College of Midwives.
This page last reviewed 16 May 2023.
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